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The Second Amendment

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week on a gun control bill.

A lot of the coverage focused on the lecture Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas gave to Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Maybe I’ll take a look at the media’s fascination with confrontation in a future post, but what caught my attention on the issue last week was the monthly poll from “60 Minutes” and Vanity Fair magazine.

It’s not one of those Internet polls. It’s done by an institute at the University of Michigan. Even though the correct answer was among the choices, half the respondents didn’t know who Wayne LaPierre is.

Fourteen percent thought he was a French explorer. Eight percent thought he was a hockey player.

Only 16 percent knew the first words of the Second Amendment. Almost half thought they were “The right to bear arms.” Seventeen percent thought they were, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons.” That’s from the Fourth Amendment. Five percent picked “To preserve our freedom from socialism.”

Remember, the correct answer was one of the choices, but 14 percent wouldn’t even hazard a guess. The first words are, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people…”

As I thought about it, I realized two things. First, those first words don’t matter anymore in the debate over guns. The Supreme Court has clearly ruled individuals have the right to bear arms, and the government clearly has the right to place limitations on which arms they may bear.

Second, at first I was surprised at the poll results. Then I took my daily dose of humility and realized it’s my job to know who Wayne LaPierre is. And your job is almost certainly tougher than mine. You want to know in a general way what’s going on in the world and whether there’s anything in the news that might affect you directly like a tractor-trailer crash on the I-10, or the price of gas going up again or that car seat your kid is in has been recalled.

If you didn’t know who he is or how the amendment starts, don’t worry about it. You keep keepin’ on, and we’ll do our best to make sure you know what you need to know.